A common theme during the last six months has been the attempt to portray critics of ECB team management as (a) whingers and (b) paranoid conspiracy theorists.
The problem is, time and again we’ve been proved right.
As Arron said on our discussion boards recently, if we’d suggested in the wake of Pietersen’s sacking that Peter Moores would return as coach, we’d have been laughed off as delusional trolls.
Many of us ‘below the line’ have argued that England’s decline – and the ill-treatment of several players – stemmed from the dark side of Flowerism, of which Peter Moores is an avid exponent.
Andy Flower achieved an enormous amount as England head coach. He oversaw three consecutive Ashes victories and our rise to number one in the test rankings.
But that success came at a price. Towards the end of Flower’s tenure, his obsession with statistics and pre-prepared plans began to corrode the team’s soul.
Outwardly, he appeared to run the team on the basis of spreadsheets and management theory, at the expense of individuality and even common sense. It was the cricket of computer says no. And if a plan which worked on paper didn’t in practice, it was persisted with anyway.
Any tactic, or any player, which did not align with Flower’s systems were forbidden or eliminated. Dynamism, flair, and risk-taking, were deeply frowned upon. The only trusted approach was conservatism. Ambition was held in suspicion. Aim low. Steady stoicism was the name of the game. It was the Pink Floyd credo: hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.
As I’ve argued before, this is one of the main reasons why Alastair Cook should not remain captain. He is a staunch Flowerite, and, unable to see beyond this now discredited approach, he traps England in the past.
This much was evident as recently as the Lord’s test against India in July, when England bowled themselves to defeat by stubbornly persisting with ill-conceived plans, instead of bowling naturally.
Broad and Anderson effectively admitted this, when they later said that from Old Trafford onwards they consciously started to bowl wicket-taking balls, instead of sticking rigidly to a pre-ordained plan. Lo and behold, they suddenly became vastly more effective – and the series was turned on its head. It would be fascinating to know whose idea it was to so radically change the philosophy.
But when we “know-nothings” make these kinds of points, more often than not we’re derided for our agenda-fuelled ignorance. Watching from afar, what could we possibly understand about what’s going on?
And then Graeme Swann goes and proves us right. I know you’ve probably seen this already. And as it speaks for itself I’ll make no further comment. But I’d love to hear yours.
“I’ve sat in these meetings for the last five years listening to how it is a statistics-based game. There was this crazy stat in the last World Cup that [if we got] 230 we would win 72 per cent of our matches. The whole game was built upon having this many runs after this many overs, this many partnerships, doing this in the middle working at 4.5 an over. I used to shake my head thinking: ‘This is crazy.’
“I remember Trott getting 86 [in [the 2011 World Cup quarter final] in Colombo. We’d batted to our batting plan perfectly, got 229, everyone said brilliant – they knocked it off in 39 overs. That’s how we always played it. It’s crazy.”